A Child's Christmas in Wales
The Irish Repertory Theatre brings Dylan Thomas' poetic holiday nostalgia to DR2 Theatre.
Maybe it's the idyllic holiday atmosphere: a fireplace lined with children's stockings; a bevy of Christmas trees overhanging gifts wrapped with shiny paper in muted winter colors; a wise old grandpa slouched in a wingback chair with an oversize book in his lap. There's something about Charlotte Moore's stage adaptation of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales (an Irish Repertory Theatre tradition) that gives you that cozy feeling of crowding onto a multicolored carpet before a group of enthusiastic narrators in holiday sweaters (this production's festive garb is designed by David Toser). You don't even really have to pay close attention to Thomas' prose to absorb the warmth of his nostalgic tales of Christmases past. Just let it warm you inside like a cup of hot cocoa and take in the spirit of the holidays that exist only in our fantasies and fabricated memories.
The Christmases of Thomas' tales and Moore's translation of them to the stage (she directs her own adaptation) embrace the sepia tone of reflection. Snow storms, drunk aunts, and adventures in the woods all take on a mythical quality as they're delivered like Hans Christian Andersen fairytales with classic Christmas carols sprinkled throughout (music direction and piano accompaniment by Mark Hartman).
Hindsight, they say, is 20/20, but as Thomas eloquently illustrates, it actually buffs reality to a brilliant sheen and elicits a longing for times that in all likelihood never were. This fantasy world is the capital of all holiday fare, and A Child's Christmas in Wales lets us spend a luscious 70 minutes inside.
The five-person cast — Jacque Carnahan, Katie Fable, Kenneth Quinney Francoer, Ashley Robinson, and two-time Tony winner John Cullum — graciously step aside to make way for Thomas' text. Cullum, a theater legend with nearly 30 Broadway credits to his name, takes center stage as the production's implied patriarch, but if you're looking for a tour de force John Cullum performance, you've come to the wrong theater. The folks onstage are more like pieces of furniture within their Norman Rockwell setting than actors with distinct characters. Their main task is to don a cheery smile, deliver the crisp text, and with rosy cheeks, create an atmosphere fit for a picture print by Currier and Ives.
"These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives."